Food dehydrators are versatile machines that allow you to preserve food while retaining more nutrients and natural flavor. Dehydration is a safe and simple method of preserving that many people find easier and less time consuming than other methods such as freezing or canning. The dehydration process works by removing the moisture in the food that supports the growth of bacteria, mold and yeast. Thoroughly drying the food prevents the growth of these microorganisms which would otherwise lead to spoilage. It is important that all of the moisture is removed from the food during the dehydration process.
A dehydrator relies on heat, dry air, and air flow to remove moisture from food. The amount of heat and dry air inside the machine is determined by the setting of an adjustable thermostat. This setting will differ according to the food being dried. Foods that are denser, like meat, require higher temperatures and more dry air to efficiently remove all of the moisture.
The flow of air is what carries the moisture away from the food. Dehydrators come with either horizontal or vertical air flow systems. Each type of air flow has advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of Vertical Air Flow
Vertical air flow dehydrators are usually made with a heat element in the base and fan at the bottom of the unit although some units have the heating element mounted at the top. Machines made with a vertical air flow system tend to be less expensive than those with horizontal air flow. These units are more suited to drying fragile items like fruit, herbs and fish than they are for meats such as beef, chicken and wild game. While larger volumes of air can result in these delicate items becoming over-dried and crumbly, the lower exposure in a vertical flow dehydrator is just right to maintain the integrity of delicate foods and craft items.
Disadvantages of Vertical Air Flow
Dehydrators with vertical air flow often cause uneven heating. The position of the heat base and fan often lead to an uneven distribution of air across the trays. Trays must be rotated during the dehydration process to ensure more even drying and these units are less likely to dry meat and dense food like bananas evenly. Drying meat thoroughly is especially important to prevent the potential growth of bacteria, making vertical flow dehydrators a less desirable choice for this type of dehydrating.
Advantages of Horizontal Air Flow
In a horizontal air flow dehydrator, the air flows evenly across every tray. Stackable models that can be expanded to a larger number of trays will get the same efficient results as models that have a fixed number of trays. The even flow of air allows you to set the dehydrator for the appropriate drying time and go about your business while the machine does its job. There is no need to rotate trays and all types of food can be perfectly dried, even when every tray is filled.
Horizontal air flow dehydrators offer a big advantage to consumers who want to dry large volumes of food. These units take less time to dry foods than vertical dehydrators and are available in a variety of capacities. These features make it convenient to preserve food from the garden, make large batches of jerky, and create healthy snacks like fruit rolls with minimal effort.
Disadvantages of Horizontal Air Flow
The only real disadvantage to horizontal air flow dehydrators is the price. These units usually cost significantly more than a similar model that implements vertical air flow. If you need a dehydrator that dries faster and more evenly or you want to preserve meat, investing in a horizontal air flow dehydrator is the most convenient and safest option.
The choice between a horizontal flow and vertical flow dehydrator depends largely on the individual’s needs. These versatile machines have a broad range of uses from preserving herbs from an herb garden to preserving fruits and vegetables to use in meals and as snacks for a healthier diet year round. Once you know which type of dehydrator is best for your needs, the next step is to find a good quality machine at the lowest possible price.